Abstract

The text is a 10-minute rant delivered by narrator William Hellermann, composer/performer and co-director/founder of the DownTown Ensemble, which seems to be about him (Hellermann), although approximately every other biographical fact seems questionable and is in fact false. That still leaves much that is true. So while Bill seems in some sense to be “Bill,” as things go on, the rant turns sour, then melancholy, totally political and outrageous. Finally, one should, based on observation, begin to suspect that the text is by the composer, who is sitting in the ensemble playing clarinet. The performance begins when a faux-emcee Bill, under appropriately harsh emcee lighting, comes onstage from the wings to (pretend to) introduce the Ensemble. He takes the mike while the ensemble is still tuning up (as specified in the score). The ensemble plays on while the text referentially points out what is happening: the Ensemble is “at this moment” strategizing political action to itself while playing. Further observation leads to another conclusion: The Ensemble and the Speaker seem to have nothing to do with each other—that is, until one focuses on the drummer (Jim Pugliese) who, entrained by the spoken voice, is responding to and improvising off the vocal rhythms of Hellermann with a softish and insistent wash of brushes and kick-drum. So although seated with the Ensemble, he is really part of Bill's “ensemble.”

The text is part of the score of Interpreting, composed for the Down Town Ensemble: clarinet (Daniel Goode), trombone (Peter Zummo), cello (Matt Goeke), piano (Joseph Kubera), percussion (Jim Pugliese) and soprano voice (Mary Jane Leach).The piece premiered at the Sounds Like Now festival at La Mama ETC, 16 October 2004.

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